Sherlock is fairly certain (only he isn’t, because this thought is just ridiculous) that it has never been this quiet anywhere in the world, ever. He is convinced that nothing has ever been this quiet and close and still all at once. Perhaps it has just never been like this for Sherlock. Usually it's a case or it isn't. And when it isn't, it's disgust, that horrible ache that settles deep in his bones and twists and twists at his muscles until he feels he will snap with tension, or scream with frustration or simply just slip silently into madness with the sheer dull monotony of it all. This is the way he feels between cases. Monotony is boring, like eating, like crap telly, like breathing, like kissing, like life… sometimes.
Sherlock never thought that he could be quiet like this. It should be terrifying but something in his brain has clicked off, like a little metal switch accidentally bumped with an elbow, and he finds he doesn’t much care at all. He can feel sleep creeping in, and that is slightly disturbing, because he isn’t tired - shouldn’t be tired - he slept a full five hours this morning and that is usually enough…
But right now, all he can smell is John, John’s skin, snow, soap… and he is just breathing, and everything is warm. They aren’t touching, not really. Sherlock’s fingers flutter half an inch over the mattress and connect with John’s, and he feels John’s smallest and ring fingers catch gentle hold of his own. He shuts his eyes tighter…
…John takes offense sometimes at the smallest of things - things Sherlock hadn’t even meant to be offensive, but he is callous, and he knows this, it’s just that he rarely catches himself. He’s been making an effort around John, but after the frustration of the case and the slip of his tongue, after the argument - none of that important, no, no, no where was the point? The moment that clinched it all?
It had been overwhelming, something nameless roiling inside him, hot and foreign, clenching in his chest, restricting his breathing and he can’t think when John is talking, and his coat is wet and heavy and unpleasant and John is talking and he can’t think. He barely notices that he’s circling, but it’s not the case he’s thinking about and that in itself is fairly disturbing, because he was thinking about the case a moment ago, and now--”
Test it. He presses the heel of his hand hard against the wall to the right side of John’s head and his fingers bump strange and gracelessly against John’s throat. He watches the other man’s pupils dilate even in the darkness of the room. Evidence: Attraction? Fear. No. Right? No. Not fear… Poisoning. Poisoning can cause pupils to dilate…
He realises a second too late that John has made a sound. Has he hurt him? Did he say something? Even looking back now, calmly, analytically, he can’t discern who moves first. Just that suddenly their mouths are pressed together and they have met somewhere in the middle-distance, and they both breathe in at the same time and it is not dissimilar to the wind when it steals the breath right out of your lungs.
Something shifts and flares to life in Sherlock when there is a tug on his coat and he is pulled a step closer. There is something heartbreaking in the way John’s breath seems to catch in his throat. Sherlock relates his breath catching to excitement, a piece of the puzzle, a new case… and the way he couldn’t breathe for a moment, just a moment when John opened that jacket that wasn’t his and there was a bomb beneath it.
No, don’t think about that now. He does what he’s seen and catches John’s lip between his own, and pulls back slowly. He can feel heat radiating from John’s skin, feel the shift of muscle in his throat as he swallows. Sherlock swallows.
“Sher--” John begins, and Sherlock has pulled back enough to watch him. John turns his face away the way he does when he can’t quite believe something. When he’s angry or frustrated, but not too far gone. This isn’t yelling anger, this isn’t Lessons In How To Be Human.
Sherlock hates those. But he doesn’t want them to stop. That will mean John’s given up - Sherlock will no longer be something to work on. To work out… to… what?
John has faith in him, John believes that he feels underneath it all. Sherlock doesn’t know why, yet, but he doesn’t want it to stop. He doesn’t want to become boring to John, doesn’t want to become predictable.
It never occurs to him that John worries about the same thing.
It’s been too long, he suddenly realises, remembers the passing of time, and the rules laid down in childhood about how long it is and is not appropriate to stand close to someone else. They were rules - words - but never words he’d paid attention to. He didn’t like standing close to people. It didn’t happen often. Alarm bells are going off though - deeply ingrained systems of How To Seem Normal, and he pulls his hand away from John’s jaw, which is no longer cold and damp like it was when they came upstairs.
John’s hand flies away from Sherlock’s jacket so fast it almost startles him. He’d forgotten it was there. He doesn't forget things like that. He can feel uncertainty creeping in, panic. Panic is bad - it seeps like a black cloud, an ink stain, across everything that makes sense and to ward it off he says John’s name.
“John.” Clinical. “Look at me.” His voice is uneven, jittery, trying to keep his equilibrium steady on slick ground.
John’s eyes meet his and it is familiar, but the expression is not. It seems to say What are you doing? But it’s not exasperated. It’s different. How?
He is distracted by John’s mouth, the crinkles of skin around his eyes. What he did was wrong, cornering him like that. Sherlock knows how to betray trust - he knows that he can do it without realising, and that he doesn’t always hold it in high regard, and he trusts that John will forgive him and if he doesn’t, he still has his work…
Something twists sharp and painful inside him and he steps back, looks away - he’s so uncertain suddenly. He made a mistake, he made a mistake, he hates the sound of it, it leave a bad taste in his mouth - he didn’t think this would result in…
His eyes stray to his violin, the windows which are both at the opposite end of the flat - far away from John
“Don’t you dare.”
He stills, everything in him tenses just a little. He is listening, but not looking. He turns his face back when John moves, but doesn’t look at his face. Instead he watches those hands curl around his lapel again, around his scarf, and he can see the moisture from his scarf on John's hands even in the dimly lit little room, and suddenly he is forced to step forward, and John kisses him, full of purpose, wholly of his own accord and in a moment of panic - trying to figure out what Normal People did now, he freezes, and his thoughts freeze, and John’s mouth is warm and soft against his own and he parts his lips before John pulls away again, before the awfulness that was between them a moment ago slips back in.
It takes him a moment to relax, and even then it’s not all at once. He can feel John’s hands smoothing out the tension in his arms, his shoulders, his neck.
A soft sound passes his lips as he exhales. They are breathing into each other. They are still kissing and it isn’t something he wants to stop. He doesn’t know where to put his hands, but they find parts of John, his shoulder, his forearm, and he hangs on tightly and when John’s cold hands slip between his shirt and his coat and slide up over his back, over silk, he lets the stream of thoughts he is having slip to the back of his mind where they hum, unobtrusive, like their radiator clicking in the corner.
There are fragile parts of Sherlock Holmes, and he doesn’t think about them because they are fragile and sometimes they hurt, and confuse, and trouble. John’s hands and John’s mouth and John’s nonsensical “Oh, God, fuck, oh,” doesn’t sound like wasted syllables or wasted energy, but like something else entirely, and there are dark spaces in Sherlock Holmes that warm, and light up, just a little, until they don’t feel as foreign and brittle anymore.
When he pulls away just enough to heave a sigh against John’s neck, the uncertainty doesn’t creep back in - not that he waits for it - there is space, here, only for warmth and the understanding that John only ever brings in the end.